The Sanskrit term advaita is generaally translated to mean: ‘not two’, ‘no second’, to wit, ‘not qualified’.
The most direct advaita statement (in the early Upanishads) is: tattvamasi, meaning ‘Thou art that’, reprised as ‘All is Brahman’, ‘You too are Brahman’ and so on.
tattvamasi declares absolute (meaning unqualified) pan-brahmanism (i.e. pantheism). However, hardly had the understanding of unqualified pan-brahmanism, derived from experience, been expressed that Brahmin scholars, realising its a-political nature, stepped in to qualify the unqualified and thereby give it political traction. And the Brahmin scholar who shouted advaita loudest, namely Adi Shankara, eventually lied about and so destroyed the very notion of tattvamasi by delineating difference (i.e. ‘otherness’) between phenomena and that which creates them. What he did not, that is to say, would not because he could not understand and then stand over was the notion (derived from experience) that otherness/difference does not exist as such (for adults) but is created as (infantile) observer illusion. In other words, all phenomena (to wit: the whole universe as saguna Brahman) happen as alternatives (i.e. as variations or modifications) of the pre-application with qualities) of the nirguna Brahman/Atman.
tattvamasi, being unconditional, clearly means ‘Thou art that’ + warts and all. Hence Brahman/Atman happens as (i.e. ‘waits as’) ‘warts and all.’ That understanding, however, simply means that all control over the everyday world was lost. How can one control the creative controller? If every phenomenon is Brahman/Atman, then what? Who is right, who wrong? Which act is good, which bad if all the former are Brahman/Atman?
It must immediately have been apparent to Badarayana and, later on, Shankara, that if the experience, as knowledge, of tattvamasi, is true then major elements of the ancient Indian polity, namely karma, samsara, the jiva, moksha and so on would become redundant with disastrous consequences for India.
See also: tattvamasi
© 2016 Victor Langheld